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Archive for September, 2012

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“Court is now in session! The court presents the case of The World vs. Michelle, the honorable judge Michelle presiding.”

In the case of anyone who has ever offended me in my life, I am the self-appointed prosecuting attorney, testifying witness, acting jury, and judge. I imagine myself sitting on the judge’s seat on a huge elevated platform, in my black robe, curled and powdered wig firmly in place, as in paintings I’ve seen of Colonial Williamsburg days.

Bang! Bang! Pounding my wooden gavel on the podium, I call the first witness to the stand – myself.

“Your Honor, the accused has committed unpardonable crimes against Your Honorable self, which you will find listed on this record.”

A scroll is rolled out the length of the courtroom, the end finally bumping to a halt against the far wall. The prosecuting attorney reads the list of offenses aloud.

“The accused is charged with:
Insensitivity to Your Honor’s feelings,
Critical words,
Unacceptable behavior,
Failure to admit fault,
Lack of apology…”

“Guilty! Guilty!” scream the jury, before the list is even finished. The many faces of my own emotions scowl from the jury stand – anger, bitterness, wounded pride, fear of others’ opinions, self-righteousness, a critical spirit, desire for revenge.

“Order! Order in the court!” I pound the gavel to silence the crowd.

“In the case of The World vs. Michelle, the court finds the accused guilty and sentenced to a life of shame and condemnation, without chance of parole.”

Have you ever wanted to be the judge in the case of someone who has hurt or offended you? Have you been sitting on the judge’s seat in your own heart? What does that person “owe” you? What would your sentence be?

But what if the scene were to change, and I were the one being accused? There IS a supreme Judge over all mankind, who has every reason to condemn me to a life sentence without parole. The Bible says that we will “have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word” (Matt 12:36), and that “God will judge men’s secrets” (Rom 2:16). Nothing is hidden from him. And no clever defense attorney can talk us out of the due penalty for our sins. Our only hope is in our Advocate, Jesus Christ, who “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom 8:34).

The amazing, incomprehensible miracle of grace is that Jesus steps in before the gavel comes down, and says that He will take my sentence upon Himself. How can I refuse such an offer? And once I realize how much I have been forgiven, how can I possibly stand in judgment of another who has offended me?

As I mentally get up out of the judge’s seat, take off my powdered wig, and lay down my gavel, I return that rightful place to the Supreme Judge. I tear up the “sentence” of what the offending person “owes me” and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Forgiving doesn’t mean that person is off the hook. It just means they’re off MY hook. I’M not the judge. I’ll leave that job to the Creator of the Universe. For as I’ve been forgiven, I must forgive.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Luke 6:37 (NIV)

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Crunching metal and shattering glass were the last things Linda heard before she blacked out. When she opened her eyes, paramedics and police were hovering over her.

“Where’s my baby? Where are my boys?” Through the fog of regaining consciousness, the painful reality slowly sunk in. Though Linda and her two older boys had miraculously survived the head-on collision, her two-year-old son had been killed instantly.

Just weeks before, Linda had discovered her husband’s affair. She was devastated to realize it had been going on for years. Trauma Booklet.

“Why, God? Why did You take my baby from me? Why did my husband cheat on me? Why are You punishing me?”

Free From the Arrow of Depression. For the next several years she went through the motions of caring for her boys, learning how to be a single mom in the aftermath of her husband leaving. It was as if her heart had died that day of the head-on collision.

Years went by. Years of numbness and a deep ache that never went away. Then came the day when she got the news that her ex-husband was in critical condition in the hospital. Though Linda knew her boys had a right to visit their father, she didn’t want to see him or talk to him. She dropped them off at the hospital and waited in the car for them to come out.

That night in the quietness of her bedroom, Linda raged at God. “Why should I care what happens to him? After all he’s done for me, I don’t care if he dies.” Waves of hurt and painful memories came crashing over her again. Free from the Arrows of Anger, Rejection, and Shame

Forgive him. The thought came quietly, unexpectedly, after the storm of tears. “What? Forgive him? How can I? He’s never apologized! He’s hurt me so much!”

Forgive him. The message was gentle, persistent. “No! Never! I can’t ever forgive him for what he’s done! It’s too painful!”

Forgive him. Finally, in desperation, Linda quietly surrendered. “OK, Lord. Because YOU have forgiven me, I will forgive my ex-husband. But You have to help me! I don’t want to do it, but I will do it because You ask me to.”

Inexplicably, a deep sense of peace settled in Linda’s heart. The raging inner battle was over.Free to Forgive. It was in God’s hands now. And there was such sweet release – as if a huge weight had been lifted off her chest.

As Linda told my friend and I her story, she pulled out a small photo from her wallet.

“This was me fifteen years ago, after my husband left and my son was killed.” She pointed to a picture of a woman with deep lines in her face and great heaviness in her eyes. I couldn’t believe it. She looked fifteen years OLDER in that picture than she did now! I wouldn’t have even recognized her as the same person.

“God has given me back my joy!” Linda smiled, her face radiant. “When I forgave my husband and released the pain of the loss of my son to Him, He gave me such peace and freedom.”

Our Heavenly Father wants to do the same for you! Will you give your hurt to Him today, in exchange for His grace and peace? Only He can transform the deep pain of loss into a story of forgiveness, healing, and inexplicable joy! He is the only One who can give “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV).

Going Vertical!
MJ

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